Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Merrigan Challenges Dairy Committee to Use Past to Move Forward

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan challenged members of the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee on Wednesday to look beyond declining prices and seek an answer to the ailing dairy industry that will have a lasting impact.

“I’m asking that you start thinking in long-term solutions,” said Merrigan during a welcome address on day two of the advisory committee meeting. “I’m challenging you to not only be good advisers but good historians.”

Dairy farmers have been suffering from a decrease in milk prices for nearly two years. Since January 2009, prices have dropped by nearly half of what they were in 2008. Price declines coupled with an increase in feed prices have caused many operations to close or take on a large amount of debt.

Yet, this down cycle is nothing new to the industry.

“The boom-and-bust cycle of farm-level milk prices has repeated itself over the past three decades,” said Merrigan. She referenced a book, “Thinking in Time” that discusses the importance of history and how to use it to one’s advantage in the policy world.

“As you work to meet the industry’s needs, keep in mind that the dairy industry is often taught to be an immediate problem, not always a reflection of the bigger picture or an attempt to make decisions based on the lessons of history,” said Merrigan. “As you go about your reviews and recommendations I ask that you look ahead by looking back.”

The three-day public meeting — held at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. — will give the 17-member Dairy Industry Advisory Committee a chance to review farm milk price volatility and dairy farmer profitability, and make recommendations on how USDA can best address the needs of the dairy industry.

“With this appointment you have a great opportunity not just to know dairy history, but to understand its story, to use it, discuss it, analyze it,” said Merrigan. “Drawing on the lessons of the timeline you can help shape the future of dairy policies and programs that may in the end be a part of your legacy.”

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan told members of the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee that looking at the industry’s history will help develop long-lasting solutions.
Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan told members of the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee that looking at the industry’s history will help develop long-lasting solutions.

USDA Business Administrator Judith Canales Promotes Job Creation in New York State Through the Recovery Act

Bankers and economic development officials from across New York attended USDA Rural Development’s Lender Roundtable in Syracuse on April 8.  Sponsored by New York’s Rural Business Program, the event featured USDA Business and Cooperative Programs (B&I) Administrator Judith Canales. The Administrator emphasized the B&I Program’s desire to attract new lenders, while strengthening its existing lending relationships and creating jobs. Read more »

Thousands of Members of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico Will Soon Get Running Water

By Ernie Watson – Public Information Coordinator, USDA Rural Development

Although Earth Day won’t be celebrated until April 22nd, the dedication and blessing of the Eastern Navajo Waterline at Counselor, New Mexico on Monday epitomized the very essence of what former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson envisioned 40 years ago when he established the first celebration of Earth Day.

The new water line will serve 10,000 members of the Navajo Nation with another 10,000 to be served within the next decade.  Currently, 4,500 residents that will be served by the waterline drive up to 100 miles round trip to haul water for their home use and to provide water for their livestock.

The Navajo Chapters of Huerfano, Nageezi, Burnam, Counselor, Ojo Encino, Torreon, Pueblo Pintado and Whitehorse Lake are in the midst of a major water crisis. The residents of these communities do not have a sustainable long-term water supply and the aquifer in this harshly arid region is pumped much more quickly than it can be recharged by rainfall.

USDA Rural Development, the State of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, the Indian Health Services and these eight Navajo Chapters to be served by the waterline, partnered to fund the $28.6 million to construct the water supply system. Rural Development provided $8.7 million in Tribal Set-Aside Water and Environmental Program funds for the project.  When completed in two years, the water line will stretch 70 miles across four counties to provide clean, healthy water to those living in this remote area of New Mexico.

During the dedication ceremony, Earl Herrera the Hataalii (medicine man) asked the officials from each of the agencies, including RD State Director Terry Brunner, to participate in the traditional blessing of the water system.  Each sprinkled corn pollen on themselves and the earth to give thanks for the construction of the water system.

A weaver from the Pueblo Pintado Navajo Chapter created a USDA rug commemorating the ceremonies that said “Ahehee” or “Thank you” in Navajo.

A Navajo rug was presented to State Director Terry Brunner during the dedication and blessing of the Eastern Navajo Waterline ceremonies. The rug was crafted by a local artesian. The word “Ahehee” means ““Thank you” in Navajo.
A Navajo rug was presented to State Director Terry Brunner during the dedication and blessing of the Eastern Navajo Waterline ceremonies. The rug was crafted by a local artesian. The word “Ahehee” means ““Thank you” in Navajo.

New Mexico Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner (center) participates in a traditional Navajo blessing by sprinkling corn pollen on the ground during the dedication ceremonies for the Eastern Navajo Waterline in northwest New Mexico.
New Mexico Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner (center) participates in a traditional Navajo blessing by sprinkling corn pollen on the ground during the dedication ceremonies for the Eastern Navajo Waterline in northwest New Mexico